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 Rossini's La donna del lago


Rossini Festival, Pesaro,  August 8-17, 2016

Photographs by studio amati bacciardi, courtesy of the Rossini Opera Festival

Nick Hawkins has kindly provided the following review of Rossini's La donna del lago from the Rossini's Festival.  He saw the performance on August 17.  The article first appeared in the October 2016 edition of Capriccio, the Rose Bruford College opera course newsletter.

It will come as no surprise to a London audience that this new production of La Donna del Lago by Damiano Michieletto was particularly crass. It started with an elderly couple sitting together in a room with flowers and a photograph of Juan Diego Flórez with a crown on his head. All this occurred during the Sinfonia. They mimed discontent and argument. The old man flounced out of the room leaving the old woman clutching the photograph and discarded flowers. Then the scene changed to a shattered mansion with grass growing through the walls, but with a very long staircase along one wall; a bed with attendant standard lamp, a worn sofa and a few battered chairs furnished this wreck of an old house. The old woman lay on the bed with a young woman, who turned out to be Elena, the Lady of the Lake. The old man sat grumpily in a battered chair, and one was forced to acknowledge that this pair of old folk was meant to be Elena and Malcom in later years. So we knew how things were going to end up. Elena then sang her exquisite aria “Oh mattutini albori” with the old woman cuddled up against her. No lake, no boat – just a bed in a decaying mansion! James V/Uberto observed her through the window of the house. Everything was played out in this set for the whole of the first act, and every time Elena or Malcom appeared the old couple accompanied them, miming the actions of the lovers, but sometimes taking off in a fit of pique. James V disguised himself as a hunter when being Uberto but soon returned as his royal self, looking very spruce in a blue and gold costume that would not have disgraced Buttons in a provincial pantomime, but complete with a most un-Scottish Crown. Duglas and Rodrigo were crude brigands, very hairy.

In the second Act the walls of the mansion were flown to about half the stage height, and stayed there for the rest of the opera. This revealed a rather pleasant bank of long grasses/reeds, which, without the attendant furniture, ruined mansion, and water lurking about the stage (more of that later), would have given us a suitably bucolic atmosphere more in keeping with the Scott poem. It would also have cost less!

However, we came for the opportunity to see Flórez and Michael Spyres as James V and Rodrigo respectively. They did not let us down. Both tenors were on great form; both have very different types of voice and it would be invidious to declare any preference. Spyres reprised his Rodrigo, which he sang at the concert performance in 2013. I was much impressed with the mezzo Varduhi Abraamyan who played Malcom. Marko Mimica woofed his way through the role of Duglas. Michele Mariotti conducted with great feeling, inspiring the Bologna Orchestra to new heights of delicacy in a score that has a distinct melancholy feel to it.

However, Mr Michieletto must receive an inoculation of the anti-Holten serum! It is bad enough to have two aged mimes imitating almost every move made by Elena and Malcom, particularly given the demographic of the Pesaro audience which is hardly in the first flush of youth! Insult is added to injury, however, when the aged Elena is required to strip almost naked and throw herself into what I can only surmise is the smallest loch in Scotland, and then run about the stage to warm up. Even more injury to good taste is inflicted by the Director on the unfortunate Elena, beautifully sung by Salome Jicia. In the course of her final aria, to my mind one of the most beautiful written by Rossini, “Tanti affetti in tal momento”, our heroine was required to change from beautiful girl to aged woman. I am amazed that the Direction of the Festival allowed such an insult to a singer! The aria is difficult enough without the added stress of performing a quick-change act in front of the audience!


The Team 

Giacomo V / Uberto -  Juan Diego Flórez

Duglas - Marko Mimica

Rodrigo - Michael Spyres

Elena - Salome Jicia

Malcom - Varduhi Abrahamyan,

Albina - Ruth Iniesta

Serano / Bertram - Francisco Brito



Conductor - Michele Mariotti

Director - Damiano Michieletto

Designer - Paolo Fantin

Costumes -  Klaus Bruns

Lighting - Alessandro Carletti


Orchestra e Coro del Teatro Comunale di Bologna




© studio amati bacciardi

Uberto and Elena (with Elena's alter ego on the left)





© studio amati bacciardi

Elena and Duglas




© studio amati bacciardi

Elena, Rodrigo and Uberto





© studio amati bacciardi

Uberto and Rodrigo






© studio amati bacciardi

The company






© studio amati bacciardi

Bertram, Rodrigo, Elena, Duglas and Malcom 






© "Uschi"

Flórez receiving his call as James V (Note the costume).    



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